Tuesday 22 June 2010

Bible Book:
2 Kings

"And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: 'O Lord the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.'" (v.15)

2 Kings 19:9-36 Tuesday 22 June 2010


At the time of this story Judah was an Assyrian satellitekingdom. A generation earlier the northern kingdom of Israel wasconquered and the southern part of Judah only escaped by allyingitself with Assyria. The prophet Isaiah railed against this policyand he prophesied the destruction of Judah as a result. But humanlyspeaking what else could Judah do? Isaiah's words are hard and hewas right, but not just yet!

Hezekiah is one of Judah's heroes. He comes to the throne in 715 BCand sets about reforming the country and the Temple worship,attempting to undo the damage caused by the introduction of pagangods and the social injustices that breached covenant law. But thismeans rebellion against Assyria and their formidable ruler -Sennacharib.

Hezekiah, with the support of neighbouring states, thinks he isstrong enough to rebel. But Isaiah once again berates him andaccuses him of going against the will of God! (2Kings 18:13-18;Isaiah 36:1-22). It looks as if Isaiah is rightbecause in 701 BC Sennacharib invades and storms throughneighbouring states, laying Israel to waste, until he besiegesJerusalem itself.

Hezekiah turns to prayer: a remarkable prayer that recognises Godas Lord of the world, beseeching God to demonstrate this universallordship by an act of power against Sennacharib. Amazingly, Isaiahreverses his prophecy - Jerusalem will after all be spared. Hasthis prayer changed God's mind, or was Isaiah wrong before?

Verse 35 says an "angel of the Lord" (a euphemism for God)decimates the Assyrian army; a Greek historian (Herodotus) says itwas a plague carried by rats (possibly the bubonic plague?);Assyrian sources suggest the army had to be recalled to deal withtrouble at home.

However you explain it, Jerusalem was spared. Hezekiah's prayer wasanswered and this story was treasured, and it reinforced a beliefin the inviolability of Jerusalem. For Hezekiah's successors itleft perhaps a dubious legacy - an unshakeable conviction that Godwould always defend Jerusalem "for my own sake". The destruction,when it eventually comes, will be even more terrible.

To Ponder

Does prayer change God's mind? If not, what doesprayer do?

Do you think Jerusalem is still a special placefor God? What should Christians say to Jews and Muslims aboutthis?

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